[Author’s note: This piece was written for 7C Life Realization Centre after I attended a 2-day Retreat there. The ‘Swamiji’ here is His Holiness Swami Guru Sri Kriyathasa Sekar, founder of 7C Life Realization Centre.]

On 17 October last year, my father passed away. Prior to this, Swamiji and his team were kindness personified and His words gave me courage to make some of the hardest decisions ever. Because these were the right decisions, I couldn’t cry after Daddy’s death. Instead, I wrote a story which was published in the New Straits Times. Here’s the link to that story:

The pertinent paragraph is this:

At one stage, I whispered into his ears: “Daddy, if you can see, look around you. I’m here. Mummy is here,” … I imagined that, like in the movies, Daddy’s astral being would rise up and see us all.
“Daddy, pray to Amma,” I urged him. This word “Amma” had a double meaning. For one, Amma was his ishtadevam…. It was also what we called my grandmother. He opened his eyes and glanced at all of us. It was the validation I needed that he had heard me and knew that he wasn’t alone. When my father then closed his eyes for eternity, I surrendered his body, heart and soul into Amma’s hands.

During my consultation with Swamiji in November, He assured me that Amma had received Daddy. He also said that I’d inherited Daddy’s strong belief in Amma. I heard the words, but they didn’t register in my psyche. Instead, I felt I was alone in a semi-dark cave. My arms were outstretched as I surrendered my father’s body, heart and soul to Amma. Now that She’d accepted Daddy, there was an opaque veil between us. She was there, I knew, but I no longer had access to Her. My arms were empty and I was left to wander around lost.

Meanwhile, life carried on and I felt increasingly disconnected to the world. The more people (Swamiji included) said, “You’re not alone,” the lonelier I felt. The more they said, “Pray,” the more I raged. By 7 January 2017, I stopped praying altogether. Five weeks into the New Year, when a dear friend emphatically beseeched me to forgive the Divine and pray, I thought to relent. Yet, when I drove to the temple, I couldn’t park the car, let alone go inside. I drove away; the burden of being forsaken by the Divine was too much to bear.

I hated the feeling of being inadvertently placed in difficult situations to assess my response. A tedious one was to visit relatives. I had to find space among members of a family in despair, but determined to be at war with each other over their God (money). Would I be able to remain still in a place devoid of gratitude and where ritual or religion, especially Hinduism, was sure to be mocked? It was ironic, seeing my present spiritual crisis. Initially, I threatened not to go, but Swamiji insisted I had a role to play. So I went. Honestly, I was happiest when the aeroplane landed back at KLIA and the air hostess announced, “To Malaysians, welcome home.”

I then begged Swamiji to intercede with the Divine and allow me to live rather than exist. He told me point blank to give God the space to manifest the right life without interference. He also said that every prayer and thought is attended to. I wasn’t comforted, but frustrated. This was my frame of mind by the time I arrived at the retreat.

My plan was to relax, immerse myself in the activities and laugh. In the short time I’d known them, the people of 7C Life Realization Centre had embraced me warmly (literally) and shown such kindness that the memory of the flowers they sent after we cremated Daddy’s body brings tears to my eyes every time. The food during the retreat was way too good and didn’t help my waistline one bit. The centre does live up to its name of Peace Sanctuary for I found that once there, my worries and thoughts of the outside world disappeared.

I wanted to use the four chakra meditation sessions on Day1 (Manipura, Visudhi, Swadisthana and Anja) to prepare for the Inner Journey session the next day. Expecting nothing, I was surprised by a small transformation on Day 1. During one guided meditation, in that deep recess of my mind, I was back in that cave-like place. This time, the veil I spoke of earlier was no more. I could see Amma, but nothing else – an idol with no emotion whatsoever. When I had a quiet word with Swamiji about this, he replied, “She never left.”

That night, I wondered if I would sleep. Actually, I overslept! By the time I arrived at the centre the next morning, it was a quarter past six. In the faint light of dawn, everyone was seated in a circle with a beautiful formation of candles and flowers in the centre. The meditation was to the tune of the ‘Devi Prayer’ by Craig Pruess and Ananda Devi. Towards the end of this prayer, when Swamiji said “Surrender to the Divine,” I just about burst into tears. I still can’t explain or understand why I cried.

Anyway, for the rest of the morning, I participated in the activities and waited for that Inner Journey session. While I’m not prepared to share this personal journey here, what I can say is that what happened sounds fantastical, at best. That image of Amma in the cave wasn’t only visible, but luminous. She also wore a smile, the same benign one Daddy was known for. It’s as though I’d found Her all over again and, this time, Daddy was with her, too. They were neither angry with me, disappointed by my behaviour nor sad. They appeared to want the best for me and they’d given me their permission to live. It was faint, but it was certainly there.

During the ensuing discussion with Swamiji, when he explained that we’d just participated in astral travelling, I was delighted. This is something I’ve known about for many years, but never found someone who could safely accompany me on the journey and back. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would cherish the chance to travel as often as I can.

Since the retreat, nothing monumental has happened. There are daily blessings and I’ve learnt to be thankful for each one. Maybe, the one change is that I’m not as anxious as I was before the retreat. I am letting go of my grip on things and learning not to react negatively. Instead, I hope to become more of a witness to life. Perhaps, one day soon, I may even begin to pray again.

If you’ve been on a retreat, please feel free to share your stories in the comments box below.

If you’d like to know more about the retreats at 7C Life Realization Centre, do visit their website: http://7clife.org/

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